#WomenWorldwide: Taking the Leap with Leanne Silverwood

Sometimes the stars align and situations converge, giving you the opportunity to step up and take a leap into something you know will benefit so many people, not least yourself. Our interviewee today, Leanne took that opportunity with both hands and her company Local Care Force is always popping up on awards lists for the work that they do and also how they treat their employees. Read on and be inspired…

 

HOC: Great to meet you, Leanne. Let’s start with the tricky question… what’s your elevator pitch for Local Care Force?

Leanne: Sure! Have you ever had to step in to prevent someone from harming themselves in the worst possible way? Unfortunately, I have. Whilst working on a secure psychiatric ward, a worker responsible for providing one to one care and support for a suicidal patient fell asleep – I was horrified.

I loved my job on secure psychiatric wards, but I was appalled at the standard of some of the workers and it wasn’t uncommon to experience the wrong attitude or a lack of training. Because of this, I took a leap of faith, acting on something I knew was wrong, I was certain that I could do better, so led by a mix of gut feeling and passion I set up on my own.

Since establishing Local Care Force, I have trained thousands of care workers, creating new career paths for many and teaching a deep understanding of what is required to be a vigilant, passionate and safe care worker.  I work with trainers who are so passionate, that two out of four have saved people’s lives in their own time, and we now have government quality accreditations.

My team includes nurses who have created award-winning Mental well-being projects, who have won ‘Nurse of the Year’ and Patient Safety awards. I have a team of empathetic passionate managers who go the extra mile for the clients they provide staffing support for. Some great examples of this include booking vintage war-time singers, dancing with care home residents and providing virtual reality experiences to Dementia homes!

My leap has created a safe, exceptionally well-trained supply of workers to an industry that is notoriously short of staff. We provide a consistent and ethical service which is delivered with passion every single day.

 

HOC: So inspirational and an amazing positive business! How did you make this leap?

Leanne: The leap to running my own business took a lot of confidence, experience and knowledge.  All of which was gained whilst working in a mental health hospital for years, often alongside agency staff, and also within a large agency where I established and ran two department,. It was however, because of this hands on experience,  that I knew I could offer a better service myself. I could see the failings clearly and had first-hand experience of what not to do, so I knew that if I was in control, it would be a success.

  

HOC: Love it! It must be tough when you have such a passion for your job and have to make sacrifices to get it started / keep it going….

Leanne: I am the most loyal person you could meet, my motto is ‘treat people as you want to be treated’, how you treat people resembles the rest of life, you truly do get out what you put in.  Because I live this way, I am fortuitous to have an amazing team that I consider family. But there are people who you work with, have invested in (not just financially, emotionally too) who don’t give the same back, don’t respect the ethics or culture and/or take advantage of my generous nature. The most difficult aspect mentally is to not let those people affect you, the ones who you help the most who take advantage – it says so much more about them as a person than you. It’s a hard lesson but you mustn’t let it change the way you are, you have to rise above it and continue running your business and treating people as you always have.

Choosing when and if to remove someone from the business are also the most difficult choices. I am a good person and have had to fight to retain as such. Not letting the ‘few’ spoil it for everyone else is a conscious choice I have had to make.  Because we are such a close-knit team, the most difficult choices have been severing relationships because it’s not in my nature to do so. I respect people who work to support our business, I see the best in people and try to develop the rest, but sometimes in a business such as ours, inefficiencies are so transparent and the damage one person can do to an culture, environment and the teams wellbeing cannot be underestimated. Ultimately it is always me who has to make the most difficult decisions.  

 

HOC: That’s so very true! What does your team look like?

Leanne: I have attracted a team of steadfast ethical professionals.  They say you recruit in your own image and that’s exactly what has happened. In addition, they all bring a wealth of knowledge crossing all sectors of our industry, which makes us a force to be reckoned with. The majority of my senior team have been with the business for eight years and above. The respect, the responsibility and autonomy I give them, is returned week in and week out with their loyalty, consistent level of work and passion. When we applied for the Times Top 100 companies, we came 21st and the feedback from my team was exemplary. All of our core values were scored highly, and because the feedback came from my team, it meant so much more –  and all the hard work and intricacies over the years paid off.  95% of our employees said I was inspirational, 99% feel supported, 93% have fun with their colleagues and 91% loved their roles – we were ranked the highest small business in Yorkshire to work for! I personally received the highest leadership score across all the businesses assessed. As a reward – many of my team have been made associate partners with a ‘say’ and ‘stake’ in the business for their loyalty.

The support we provide our staff team goes above and beyond the usual. We are lucky to have such professionals in our business and we have introduced innovative mental health first-aid training for all. Our designated mental health nurse lead and senior trainer developed a program to provide support and signposting for all of our staff, and a ‘buddy’ mentoring system has been introduced to ensure there is always someone for my staff to talk to.

This initiative has already been shortlisted as a finalist for two Nursing Times Workforce Awards for Diversity and Inclusion, and Wellbeing and Staff Engagement. We’ve also been recognised by the HSJ Awards for creating a positive staff culture. Following this success, we plan to roll this out as a training and support package to other businesses so they too can support their workforce.

 

HOC: I’ve got goosebumps just hearing that, what an exciting story! In addition to all this, how has your business grown?

Leanne: My business has grown an average of 35% year on year since its inception in 2004 because of our team, their reliability passion and loyalty. We have grown approximately 70% by word of mouth and recommendation, and the consistency of our service has ensured client and worker loyalty. We have clients who have been with us since inception – which is unheard of for an agency and a transient workforce.  

I really believe in engagement as a business growth tool. We have a people business and so if our team isn’t engaged, don’t love their workplace or feel appreciated then we truly have nothing. Visitors to our offices regularly comment on the positivity and happy nature of the team. Our culture really is everything and our ranking in the Times Top 100 stating 99% feel supported, 93% have fun with their colleagues and 91% loved their roles, proves that our success and growth is down to the happiness and wellbeing of people.

Some examples of what we do include;

Our innovative ‘Legends’ peer feedback app shows how different from other companies we are. We are proud to be a supportive family business. We collate feedback positively on each other throughout the month, and on the first Monday of the month we all receive our anonymous feedback by email. Positivity in the workplace is an absolute must in maintaining positive mental wellbeing in the team.   The monthly crowning of the LCF Legend is a  date everyone looks forward to. The winner receives a glass award, digital character, free meals, bar tab for the team, clothes vouchers, a sleep in and early finish, massage and a drawer full of their favourite treats.

Every year we also throw two special events to ensure engagement and celebrate all the hard work. These events grow in notoriety each year and are fully paid for, luxury, all you can eat and drink affairs. From a Gin development & marketing day and night to Local Care Fest which was a self-organised music, food and booze filled glamping festival. We look after our staff and this supports our growth and their commitment to the business as a great place to work and be part of.

 

HOC: Absolutely amazing. What a huge – but exciting- responsibility you have to your teams! How did you set yourself up for this? Can you…?

Leanne: I believed in myself. To succeed you must be able to  motivate yourself, be consistent, dust yourself off and begin again each day., if you are someone who tires easily, and find it hard to motivate yourself, then it’s not for you! Be prepared not to have a day off until you are properly established – which can take years and the right people. You have to be prepared to take a gamble, risk a steady income, and accept a blip on your cv whilst you’re doing all the groundwork……  I remember Tony Robbins made a fabulous statement – If you want to take the island – burn your F***ing boats! Great analogy.

 

HOC: How do you take time out, do you ever find it difficult?

Leanne: I am not very good at relaxing; my mind is very active and there is always so much I want to do! I love a challenge and my  husband and I are currently renovating three separate properties in our down time. One is a stunning five bed Winemakers home with a separate cottage, heated pool etc in a beautiful village in the south of France. The others are in The Dales and North Yorkshire #Yorkshirelass ). The luxury property in France will soon become a rental for a few weeks each summer.

I have a fabulous friend who is an outdoorsy personal trainer at All change PT, who I run with. This is the best way to get me out of the office and into the fresh air – we have even been known to do HIT sessions by the canal which gets some interesting looks, I also enjoy pilates with her and it is the only thing that calms my mind and keeps me focused, but that’s mainly because I have no coordination!

HOC: Hold the phone, we need to know more about that Winemakers home…

Leanne: Haha, of course! The luxury property is in Languedoc, called ‘Bois D’argent’ which means ‘Silverwood’! It’s a 1869 six bed winemakers home with an independent cottage converted from the original stables,. It also has a heated pool and a summer kitchen, it’s dreamy. We bought it from the family that owned all the vineyards surrounding the village and it hadn’t been lived in for 20 years so had no suitable water, drainage or electricity but we fell in love with it anyway!

It has been a real labour of love, but we are now finally at the exciting part – finishing it off and selecting furnishings, so I am currently obsessing over hand finished kitchen handles by The Period Ironmonger, taps from  Perrin and Row, Rudge & Co and Jim Lawrence light fittings…

If you love a bit of a renovation project – be sure to check us out over at @LeBoisDArgent. The house is in Puissalicon, one of the famous ‘circulade’ villages where the ancient houses constructed in a spiral fashion outwards from the centre,  which is full of charming and unique restaurants and bars. It’s in the heart of the Languedoc vineyards and has multiple wine domains in the village itself…..who also conveniently allow for wine tasting.

HOC: Okay, back to business ; what’s next?

Leanne: My ambition was to avoid the label of ‘recruitment’ due to negative connotations and so much bad practice in the industry. We are a Nursing and health specialist provider, we are professionals in that industry and we have stood tall and fought since day one to be respected. Something I feel we have achieved. Examples of this include being asked to display our projects at the Department of  Health Patient Safety Conference, to working on pilot projects with the NMC (Nursing Midwifery Council) and RCN (Royal College of Nursing) resulting in being named as one of the RCNs Top 100 Nursing Innovators 2018. I believe we are pioneers; we have removed ourselves from the shadow of ‘recruitment’ and deservedly stand proud alongside Commissioning Groups, Independent care providers and the NHS.  Being inducted into the Royal Collage of Nursing library of best practice as the gold standard for agency Nursing last year was a testament to our professionals and the hard work they invest in this business.

Immediately on the horizon for me is a slot as a guest speaker at this years Business Insiders 42 Under 42 awards dinner. I was crowned overall winner at last year’s event, so this is a real honour. I will be up on stage infront of everyone so wish me luck!

 

HOC: And finally, a classic question; the ’10 years ago’ challenge is all the rage on insta at the moment, what advice do you have for the 2009 you?

Leanne: I think it’s the other way round, the 2009 me was smarter with her work life balance, less sensible and far more frivolous – she bought far too many expensive shoes, travelled the world to some of the most luxurious hotels ….. !

I would say, keep it up girl – LIVE LIFE!

By the time my niece / goddaughter is 18 she is going to have a seriously extensive, luxury vintage shoe collection! 2019 Leanne needs to take the time to buy more shoes and take more holidays for sure…especially with the big 40 rapidly approaching!

 

To find out more about Leanne’s business visit www.LocalCareForce.co.uk

Follow the restoration of Leanne’s French property on instagram @LeBoisDArgent

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Anna Willatt

A chronic over researcher, Anna is the one who will sniff out all the unusual things to do at a destination and create a spreadsheet of options so there's no FOMO. Less likely to be spotted at an infinity pool, Anna will be finding dive bars, flea markets, 3rd wave coffee shops and chatting with locals to find out what they get up to...and sharing that intel here as part of #TeamCoco.

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